Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tuesday Poem - In the Desert by Stephen Crane

In the Desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

I watched the Czech movie Tobruk on SBS recently because I have an Australian friend who is a Rat of Tobruk  and he has told me many stories. But I didn't know there had been a Czech  unit defending Tobruk so I was intrigued, and I also wanted to see what sort of fist they made of any Australians that appeared. The Australians were believable but absolutely not the focus of the story. That in itself was fascinating. At the end of the movie this poem by Stephen Crane was displayed. I hadn't come upon it before and I liked it very much. It was perfectly in context.  
It made me wonder if perhaps T. S. Eliot had read Crane because the line – I will show you fear in a handful of dust – (from The Waste Land) came into my mind as I read the poem on the screen. I read the subtitles of course, because the poem had been translated into Czech.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tuesday Poem - Outback by Kerry Popplewell


3.00 am Copley, South Australia

A single aeroplane

throbs through silence.

Dogs converse,

their morse erratic.

Awake in our tent

we try to translate

their talk of distance;

their talk of cold.


Salt bush. Blue bush. Blue Smoke.

Roads straight as a perspective line.

Subdued by space

we expected silence,

not knowing how various

the voices of the wind can be

when it goes scouring

rock face and ridge.

It spoke a language

we could not decipher –

a hoarse ululation

from another time.


A broken windmill by a disused well,

rail sleepers rotting, stockyard posts askew.

These aren’t the kind of records this land keeps.

It takes a longer view.

Roadhouse at Ebenezer

An Anangu man points to a map

showing tribal areas. This took six years,

he says, to make. When it was completed,

many complained that their tribe wasn’t on it.

Roast lamb and beer in the bar;

all night, the generator’s rumble.

Behind the campsite hedge,

horses snort and shake

in early sun. On each fencepost,

a magpie provides national coverage.

Coober Pedy

Consider the opal tailings:

those small, most perfect cones.

They glow silver at dusk –

a spent moonscape mirage;

at midday, a set

made to film Desolation.

People live below ground

to escape from the sky.

The sky knows no limit.

The sun gives no quarter.

Graveyard, Alice Springs

Hot gravel underfoot. Grit in the eyes.

A few graves of the famous – then the rest.

Even in death, distinctions:

the Afghan camelmen, all facing Mecca.

Far out where faint tracks end

their testy camels roam and multiply.

This is a poem that really intrigued me because it is a New Zealander engaging with the Australian outback – and all that that entails.

It is in Kerry's book Leaving The Tableland published by Steele Roberts.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tuesday Poem - Two Poems by Janet Jackson


It softly touches the bricks
at its edge,
a gentle but definite border.
The bricks say
      You can't come past here!
      This is our flower bed!
The lawn says
       OK, I won't
       but let me look.
The bricks let it look.

Breastfeeding a four-month old

As you stroke me
carefully opening your hand flat
I realise
that the annoying jerky movements
your fist made a month ago
were your very best caresses.

Here are two short poems from Janet Jackson's book Coracle which I picked up when I was in Perth. You can get the book from here -
and it is also available at Collected Works, Gleebooks, Mary Martins, Crow Books and a few other discerning book shops.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Tuesday Poem - By Moonlight by Jennifer Compton

By Moonlight

You didn’t know where Moscow is or who Mozart was.
I touched you and asked you to dance but your face collapsed.
As you slammed the pupils of your eyes shut you unleashed
a powerful one-note perfume, like a carapace, like a cicatrice.

I loved you. I remember you by moonlight, inaccurately,
with the white hair-slide of false hope curving like your shy smile.
I remember you by moonlight, accurately, suddenly barefoot,
suddenly adroit, as the white horse lay and groaned in his sleep.

The moon swayed, the pine trees,
on your boundary, like a premonition,
switched perspective, becoming foreground
with smooth, elusive panache. Trees can do that.

I’ll take my teeth out and put them in a glass beside the bed.
So I can’t bite. This is my last and best gift. Such sentiment!

Here's a poem from my book Barefoot published by Picaro Press.
On its very last chance at the prizes it got the nod and got shortlisted for the John Bray Award at the Adelaide Festival. Oh well done, little book.

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